Borders and Visas

We have now reached the stage where we must struggle to plan the visas for all the countries we will visit. Apparently, obtaining a Turkmenistan visa is quite complicated and requires a lot of bureaucracy, including finding a guide who will be with us throughout our journey in Turkmenistan. Furthermore, apparently the drone may not make it in Uzbekistan and our friend the Donald cardboard is afraid of the Iranian border.


We will cross 14 borders, across what was the greatest empire in history, and I am sure that there will be a lot of waiting.

As I was checking the paperwork for the first visa, I couldn’t help thinking of something Kapuscinski wrote about borders

People are not made to live in borderline situations; they avoid them or try to flee from them as quickly as possible. And yet man encounters them everywhwere, sees and feels them everywhere. Let us take the atlas of the world: it is all borders. Borders of oceans and continents. Deserts and forests. Precipitations, monsoons, typhoons, cultivated land and fallow land, permafrost and bog, rocky soil and clay. Let us add the borders of the Quaternary deposits and volcanic flows, of basalt, chalk and trachyte. We can also see the borders of the Patagonian plate and the Canadian plate, the zones of tropical climates and of Artic ones, the borders of the erosions zones of the Adycha watershed and of Lake Chad. […]

And the borders of monarchies and republics? Kingdoms remote in time and lost civilizations? Pacts, treaties and alliances? Black tribes and red? Human migrations? The borders to which the Mongols reached. The Khazars. The Huns.

How many victims, how much blood and suffering are connected with this business of borders! There is no end to the cementeries of those who have been killed the world over in defense of borders. Equally boundless are the cementeries of the audacious who attempted to expand their borders. It is safe to assume that haf of those who have ever walked upon our planet and ost their lives in the field of glory gave up the ghost in battles begun over a question of borders. 

This sensitivity to the border issue, this untiring enthusiasm for constantly marking them out, widening them, or defending them, are characteristic not only of man, but all animate nature, of everything that moves on land, in water and air. Various mammals, in defense of the borders of their grazing lands, will let themselves be torn to pieces. Various beasts of prey, so as to secure new hunting grounds, will bite their adversaries to death. And even our quiet and meek kitten, how he labors, how he compresses and torments himself, to squeeze out a few drops with which to mark, here and there, the borders of his territory.

And our brains? Encoded in them, after all, is an infinite diversity of borders. Between the left and the right hemispheres, between the frontal and the temporal lobes, between the corpus callosum and the cerebellum. And the borders between ventricles, meninx, and convolutions? Between the lumbar region and the spinal cord? Notice the way in which we think. For instance, we think: That’s the limit; beyond that – no. Or we say: Be careful that you don’t go too far, for you will overstep the mark! Moreover, all these boundaries of thought and feeling, injunctions and interdictions, are constantly shifting, crossing and permeating one another, piling up. In our brains there is ceaseless border movement – across borders, near borders, over borders. Hence our headaches and migraines, hence the tumult in our heads; but pearls can also be produced: visions, dazzlements flashes of inspiration, and – unfortunately more rarely – genius.

The border is stress – fear, even (significantly more rarely: liberation). The concept of the border can incude a kind of finality; the doors can slam shut behind us forever: such is the border between life and death. The gods know about such anxieties, and that is why they try to win adherents by promising people that, as a reward, they will enter the divine kingdom – which will have no borders. The paradise of the Christian God, the paradise of Yahweh and Allah, all have no borders. Buddhists know that the state of nirvana is the state of blissful happiness without limits. In short, that which is most desired, awaited, and longed for by everyone is precisely this unconditional, total, absolute – boundlessness.

(Ryszard Kapuscinski)


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